By Teresa Varley
The harsh reality of the end of the season hit on Monday as Steelers players gathered for a final team meeting with head coach Mike Tomlin, two days after their playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"I think it will be on our minds for awhile," said tight end Heath Miller. "Especially when Sundays and Saturdays roll around and we see other teams playing. That's when it will kind of hit me, that's for sure.
"Every time we turn on the TV and see a playoff game being played, you kind of kick yourself. I know last year the hardest part for me, during the week you put it away but when it comes time on Sunday to kick the football off again, you see other teams playing and that is when everything comes back to your mind."
Miller was a key component in the Steelers making it to the post-season, having his best receiving year with 47 catches for 566 yards and seven touchdowns while coming up with big catches at key times to move the chains.
He also was a big part of the offense against the Jaguars, with eight receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown.
It's a role that likely will continue to grow, although Miller is willing to accept whatever comes his way based on how opponents play the Steelers.
"I think it still depends on what the defense does," said Miller. "Jacksonville was dropping everybody deep. Santonio (Holmes) made a couple of big plays and they didn't want to get beat deep so, the underneath stuff was open."
Like many of his teammates Miller will take some much-needed time off to re-energize, but don't expect him to be down for long.
"It seems like in the season it starts dragging on and dragging on and it feels like it is going to take a while but it comes back quicker than you expect," said Miller. "Especially watching other guys play when you want to be playing. It kind of gets that fire burning again."
It will also give Miller a chance to reflect on the season, one which yielded a division championship and playoff berth with a first-year head coach after missing out completely a year ago.
"I don't think I really had the chance to take a full step back," said Miller. "The game is still so fresh on our minds. I don't think we have had a chance to see the grand scheme of things yet."